Ballot measure lawsuit news, June-August 2008

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Sixth Circuit says Ohio law unconstitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District ruled March 5, 2008, that an Ohio statute making it illegal to pay people gathering petition signatures by any means other than a per-time basis is a violation of the First Amendment. The court affirmed the district court ruling in the case of Citizens for Tax Reform v. Deters.

CTR officials testified that they were forced to abandon their effort to get an amendment on the Ohio ballot because the new law increased the expected costs by $300,000. The court opinion concluded that "the State largely misses the point that free speech can be costly. By making speech more costly, the State is virtually guaranteeing that there will be less of it."[1]

Alaska Clean Water off ballot

After months of judicial challenges to the Clean Water Act, miners finally received a court decision in their favor. A Superior Court judge in Fairbanks has ruled a clean-water ballot initiative that restricts water usage for large-scale mining is unconstitutional, because it usurps the Legislature's duty of allocating state resources. The case is expected to reach the Alaska Supreme Court.[2]

California ruling opens malls to petitioning

In California, a controversial decision ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Board in the case of the Fashion Valley Mall v. National Labor Relations Board. This 4-3 ruling will possibly allow California petitioners back into malls and big box stores.[3]

Judge declines to use "assisted suicide" in title

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham refused to add the words "physician-assisted suicide" to the ballot or official voters pamphlet description for Washington's Death with Dignity Initiative. "It is a somewhat loaded term," Judge Wickham said.

Instead of "suicide," voters will read that the measure would allow some terminally ill patients "to request and self-administer lethal medication" prescribed by a doctor. The court declined to add language requested by opponents and largely upheld the description as written by the state attorney general's office.[4]

Carnahan ballot title tossed by judge

For the second time in a month, a Missouri judge has thrown out a ballot title written by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to describe a proposed 2008 ballot measure. Proponents of the Missouri Stem Cell Prohibition Initiative said of the ruling that Carnahan's ballot title had been a "blatant attempt to mislead the Missouri voters."[5]

Court date scheduled in Tennessee

The lawsuit filed in January by the Tennessee Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties has a procedural hearing in federal court on March 17. The case challenges the procedures for new and previously unqualified parties to get on the ballot that haven't been used since 1968.[6]

Ballot title fight in Oregon

Ted Piccolo on NW Republican, along with Oregon GOP Senators is upset that the Democratic majority is planning to play dirty in the upcoming November election. The Democrats are writing a custom ballot title for measure that will compete with a crime sentencing measure proposed by former state Republican Chairman Kevin Mannix. This is similar to what happened with Measure 49 this past November.[7][8]

Legislature overturns Gov. veto on LB39

After threatening to do so,[9][10] on Tuesday, February 19, Sen. Schimek led a successful effort to overturn Gov. Heineman's veto.[11] Beginning this summer, circulators will have to be residents of the state and at least 18 years old. The bill also will make it illegal for petition circulators to be paid on a per-signature basis.

Minor parties sue in North Carolina

The Libertarian and Green parties are suing the North Carolina to ease the ballot access laws in that state. Currently, North Carolina has some of the strictest requirements nationally. State law requires that third parties collect 70,000 signatures in order to be included on the ballot. During the election, the party must then receive at least two percent of the vote, or it is knocked off the following election's ballot and must begin the petition process again.[12]

Paper-ballot lawsuit dismissed

The Union County commissioners lost a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State that would have allowed them to block the offer of paper ballots for the March 4th primary. A Franklin County Common Pleas judge dismissed a lawsuit saying that the union lacked the legal authority to challenge Jennifer L. Brunner's directive. The directive applies to county boards of election, not county commissioners, Brown said.[13]

Pebble beach faces shut-down

Two Clean Water Initiatives are being challenged in court saying that initiatives override the legislature's power to distribute natural resources. If the initiatives are allowed on the ballot and win, they would shut down many projects like the community contested Pebble Beach. The gold, silver and zinc deposits in the Pebble area could be worth as much as $10 billion in revenue to the state, lawyers said Tuesday. Meanwhile the Renewable Resources Coalition contests that the money made from salmon should not be discounted nor should the mines be allowed to put waste in the water that would poison them.[14]

Lawsuit over Michigan residency requirements

On February 5, a Michigan circuit court judge in Grands Rapids will hold a hearing in Ebbers v. Secretary of State, a lawsuit that challenges the residency requirement in Michigan's laws governing local recall. The office-holder who is the subject of the intended recall effort is state assemblyman Robert Dean. At issue is whether someone who lives outside of Dean's local assembly district is constitutionally allowed to enter Mr. Dean's district and ask people to sign Dean recall petitions.